How to Insert Notes in Formulas using a Function in Excel
by Avantix Learning Team | Updated April 15, 2023
Applies to: Microsoft® Excel® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, 2021 and 365 (Windows)
In addition to adding comments in Excel, there is a relatively obscure function called the N function that you can use to enter notes directly within a formula. The N function converts a value to a number and has been around for a long while so you can use it in older versions of Excel as well.
The N function has the following syntax:
Using the N function to enter notes
You can use the N function to enter notes directly in a formula. Simply enter +N("whatever note you want") at the end of the formula. The text of the note must appear in double quotes ("") and returns a value of 0 so it does not affect the calculation.
=COUNTA(A1:A900)+N("This sample data set extracted from United Global data")
The N function returns values as follows:
- If the value is or refers to a number, the N function returns the number so in the formula =N(A1) where A1 contains 400, the returned value would be 400.
- If the value is or refers to a date, the function returns the serial number of the date so in the formula =N(A1) where A1 contains 1/1/2014, the returned value would be 41640 or the number of days from the first date in the system.
- If the value is or refers to TRUE, the N function returns 1.
- If the value is or refers to FALSE, the N function returns 0.
- If the value is or refers to an error value the N function returns the error value.
- If the value is or refers to anything else (like a note in quotes) the N function returns 0.
Finding formulas with notes
You can find formulas with notes entered using the N function with the Find command:
- Click the Home tab in the Ribbon.
- Click Find and Select in the Editing group.
- Click Find. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + F. The Find dialog appears.
- In the Find dialog, enter N( or N(*) in the Find what area.
- Choose to search within the sheet or workbook and to look in formulas.
- Click Find. Continue clicking Find for each instance of a note using the N function. You can also click Find All for a listing of all instances.
You don't normally use the N function in a formula to convert values to numbers because Excel automatically converts values. The N function is provided for compatibility with other spreadsheet programs but also provides an interesting way to enter notes in Excel.
This article was first published on July 31, 2015 but has been updated for clarity and content.
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